Even though people like to rag on it as being a pretty terrible land, Dinoland U.S.A. has one of the most intricate and exciting backstories of any land in Disney!
As the story goes, initially Chester and Hester set up a gas station along Route 498 in Diggs County. Eventually, in 1947, an amateur paleontologist dug up some bones. Turns out Diggs county was a hot spot for dinosaur fossils!
After discovering the fossils, a dig site was built. (This was an attraction when the park first opened.) Initially, the site was just made up of tents but eventually turned into the Dino Institute where renowned scientists came to work and study. (Dinosaur the ride, anyone??)
The Institute of course had grad students, who all live nearby, and sell food for money at Restaurantosaurus cause they’re #broke. Eventually seeing the tourists coming to the dino institute, Chester and Hester realized they could make more money selling Knick knacks and kitschy roadside entertainment than gas, hence the creation of Chester and Hester’s Dinosaur Treasures and Dino-Rama.
Chester and Hester’s Roadside Treasures
Chester and Hester’s, which is now a merchandise store, used to be a gas station along Route 498.
You can still see remnants of this in the signs outside the building and in the old gas pump still standing outside!
The inside of Chester and Hester’s is quite unique, featuring dinosaurs…everywhere. From the ceiling, on the walls, and of course for purchase. This place screams “kitsch.”
Did you know you can even find a picture of the owners on display in the store? That’s right, this is Chester and Hester themselves!
Another thing you might notice — the grad students think it’s hilarious to add “o-saurus” to the end of things, which definitely pops up in a few different places around the land!
Now part of Chester and Hester’s big dino-cash grab was also creating the dino/carnival-themed area known as the Dino-Rama.
Did you know that in addition to rides and games, there’s a hidden Mickey in the Dino-Rama?
He’s not the only friend hidden in the concrete of Dino-Rama. Over by Triceratop Spin, there’s an outline that looks like Dumbo flying away, though unfortunately there’s currently a distance marker line over it.
This guy is another fun feature in Dinoland: he was created by an artist named Mr. Imagination, who uses trash and trinkets to make his pieces.
One time, a Cast Member gave him their one-year Mickey pin, which you can see if you zoom in.
Such a fun friend to pass by in this land, and his eclectic nature really helps him fit in.
Now, this takes us over to Restaurantosaurus, the quick service in Dinoland, which is also where the grad students of the Dino Institute live. It’s probably not a shock that these students know how to have a fun time!
A fun feature inside is the bulletin board, where you can see a number of notices, greetings, and ads from members of the Institute.
In the seating area, you can see more of the living quarters, including where students have doodled some Dinos on the walls.
And when in doubt…put o-saurus at the end.
You can also see evidence of the students living here in the loft!
And if you continue on, you can even see where the students kick back and relax when the work is done.
There are some really fun details in here, including a dartboard featuring the different eras of Dinos…
…and a jukebox with some cheeky hits in it.
Discovery Island Entrance
Back outside Restaurantosaurus towards the other entrance of Dinoland, there’s another fun bulletin board with LOTS of things you can read.
There are lots of memos and notes from the Institute one here, and a map of the original Dinoland!
Then, of course, there’s the place that started it all! The dig site at the Boneyard (which was a real place you could go and “dig” for bones). It’s set up to look like people are really working on digging up some Dinos!
Finally, one of the funniest details in Dinoland is the bridge you walk under when coming in from Discovery Island:
Did you know what this was actually called?
Plus, so fun that the Dino fossils featured in the land are actually based on real Dinosaurs!
These are just some of our favorite little details in a land that is packed full of fun things. If you wanted to, you could probably spend a whole day looking at all the hidden details and reading all the things left up here by Imagineering. Sure, it may not have wowed you at first, but how can you not have a newfound appreciation for such a fun and detailed backstory??
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What’s your favorite hidden detail in Dinoland? Let us know in the comments!